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Why the authorities must listen to the voice of black youth

DIALOGUE: Ignoring the problems young people face leads to angry confrontation

THOSE WHOM the Gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. An old saying etched in the annals of history, it’s also a warning about the cauldron of insurrectionary violence that we witnessed only a week ago.

The facts are laid bare for all to see. On the afternoon of August 4, officers from the Met Police’s Operation Trident stopped a young black man, Mark Duggan, in a taxi and shot him. His death was instant and brutal. He was all of 29 years old.

The reaction of his peers, young black men and women who lived in Tottenham where the shooting happened, was one of fury. They went into insurrectionary mode, fought the police with petrol bombs aplenty and burnt several building to the ground.

The rage snailed its way through different communities in several boroughs of the city and other parts of the UK. Shopping centres across this green and now unpleasant land were looted and ransacked. The damage was massive and extreme over two long days and nights and sadly, five lives were lost.

Hundreds of thousands of words have been written and spoken in the press and from the pulpit, full of rage but signifying very little.


Our young, gifted and black were heard across this nation but their voices were ignored by our political leaders who spent time babbling threats and seeking advice from American supercops.

In the last two decades the British police have been rampaging across black communities, stopping and searching our children illegally, young boys in the main.

The law requires that before stopping and searching our young people police officers had to prove reasonable suspicion before doing so. In the case of many of these youths the only reason for suspicion that the police can often muster is the fact that they are black.

And yet the practice continued until all hell broke loose. Allow me to offer an example. Tucked away on a back page of The Guardian newspaper a tiny article appeared on Monday August 2 under the headline: Police arrest 97 ahead of Notting Hill Carnival.

The arrests were made as part of Operation Razorback which aims to stop individuals and gangs who are suspected of planning criminal activity at the August Bank Holiday weekend event. Under the guise of this latest police campaign, and fearful of gang activity at the carnival, officers searched scores of our youths willy nilly.

The 97 people arrested were overwhelmingly black. They were searched, verbally abused and told they were not to attend the Notting Hill Carnival. When this sort of thing happens, angry confrontation between young black people and the police is inevitable.

The educated black middle class edged its way to join arm and arm with their persecutors and with those who support these types of measures. They shouted “Curfew them!” and “Oh no it is not our Tottenham youths. They are innocent. It was youths from outside the borough.”

In fact, these were the words that fell from the lips of local MP David Lammy.
But we must remember that gangs are a highly organised American phenomenon. Young men join them. There is an organised initiation ritual and you take your place in the hierarchy. Only after carrying out illegal and daring tasks are you initiated and given your colours.

However no such organisation exists in the UK. Let’s also remember that it is the school holidays at the moment and boys hang out together as they have always done.

I know - I was once a teenager.

Until and unless politicians, press and police grasp the essence of our reality social explosions will recur year after year with greater intensity on a rising scale until the cage bird sings.
And that is all.

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